Blog Tags: Bycatch
Out on the water, fishermen are notorious for both catching non-target fish and for entangling or killing many other marine animals, including dolphins, seals, whales, and sea turtles. Known as “bycatch,” these victims usually end up dead and thrown back overboard. The severity of the bycatch problem around the world has been uncertain, until now, because it can be difficult to gather data about just how many animals are caught as bycatch
We can all agree that wasting food is unacceptable. So why are U.S. fisheries allowed to throw away perfectly edible seafood? Many fisheries toss fish and other species overboard, usually dead or dying, simply because it’s not the type of seafood they are trying to catch. And the government allows this wasteful practice. A new Oceana report published this week reveals nine of our country’s most wasteful fisheries.
Ocean conservationists talk a lot about "bycatch" and "discards." But what exacty do these terms mean? In each issue of Oceana magazine, fisheries scientist and Oceana board member Dr. Daniel Pauly breaks down a commonly used fisheries term. In the recent issue, Dr. Pauly explains these technical terms and how they contribue to overfishing.
The news is buzzing with stories about more than 250 stingrays that have stranded on beaches in the Mexican state of Veracruz three days ago. Mass strandings of any animal are analyzed carefully to determine if the strandings are indicators of environmental health. However, in the case of the stingrays, foul play is suspected by locals. There are reports that fishermen dumped these rays on the beach when emptying their nets.
“Walls of death.” Gillnets have often been described in this haunting way due to their devastating ability to catch all kinds of fish, as well as sea turtles, seals, dolphins, and even whales. Marine creatures of all sizes and species are indiscriminately snared and drowned in these death traps, and a recent report reveals that even birds are being killed by these sea nets. A study in the journal Biological Conservation reported that fishing vessels that deploy gillnets snare and drown at least 400,000 sea birds around the world every year. The actual figure could be even higher.
Sawfish have a reason to breathe a little easier today: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has completed comprehensive status reviews under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and has determined that five foreign species of sawfish meet the definition of “endangered” under the Act. Of course, this “victory” is bittersweet: no one is celebrating the fact that sawfish species are endangered, but rather that they now will finally receive the protections they so desperately need to recover their numbers.
Happy World Turtle Day! While World Turtle Day celebrates turtles that roam both the land and the sea, as well as tortoises, we at Oceana would especially like to recognize the magnificent species of sea turtles that roam throughout the world’s oceans. The seven species classified as sea turtles around the world are truly incredible: most undergo incredible long migrations – some as far as 1,400 miles –between their feeding grounds and the beaches where they nest. Some loggerhead sea turtles nest in Japan and migrate to Baja del Sur, Mexico, to forage before swimming across the Pacific Ocean again to return home! Amazingly, female sea turtles even return to the exact beach where they hatched as babies to nest and lay their eggs.
May 17th is the day to show your love for endangered sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and all sorts of marine creatures. Why? Because it’s Endangered Species Day! Today is the day to learn and share information about your favorite endangered animals and rally support around the creatures that need it most.
American photographer Doug Perrine, 60, captured this priceless image of a false killer whale mid-grin off the coast of Kona, Hawaii.
Less commonly known than the killer whale (or orca), the false killer whale is the third largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. Growing to 1,500 pounds and up to 20 feet long, the false killer whale looks like no dolphin you’ve seen before. Its small conical head lacks the “beak” we expect in common dolphins, and its flippers have a distinctive hump along the front edge.
False killer whales were first discovered by their fossils in 1843, and were assumed to be extinct. In fact, the species wasn’t discovered alive until fifteen years after the discovery of their fossils. Like the gregarious-looking fellow captured in the photo, false killer whales are intensely social, forming strong social bonds in groups of ten to twenty that belong to larger groups of up to 40 individuals in Hawaii or as many as 100 elsewhere. False killer whales travel and hunt together in broad bands that can be up to several miles wide, and they even share their food with other group members.
Unfortunately, the false killer whale’s population numbers in Hawaii are nothing to smile at – these social creatures have suffered major decline in the last 25 years. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, aerial surveys showed about 400 false killer whales in 1989. More recent studies suggest the number today is closer to 150. As of November 2012, false killer whales were listed as endangered in Hawaii, due in large part to the creature’s vulnerability to be caught as bycatch by tuna and swordfish fisheries. The false killer whales become hooked or entangled in longlines when they take bait off of longline fishing hooks set for Hawaiian swordfish and tuna, a dangerous mistake that often turns deadly.
The future for false killer whales is in danger, but with education, advocacy, and increased respect and protections for these social and gregarious sea creatures, we can give the false killer whale something to smile about.
We are excited about two big wins this week for the future of fish in New England.
The first is a major legal victory that establishes the first full count, cap, and control fishery in the Northeast. This lawsuit settlement means that the New England groundfish fishery, which catches Atlantic cod, haddock and flounder, among others, must strictly account for how much fish it’s catching and discarding. Groundfish have been severely overfished, and this new ruling is an important step in establishing more sustainable fishing practices in the region.
Oceana has been campaigning for years to establish science-based monitoring of this historically overfished region of the U.S. Oceana won a legal victory in 2010 when a federal court ruled that the fishery must demonstrate that discards would be accurately counted, but when it soon became clear that discards would not be adequately monitored, Oceana brought a new lawsuit in 2012.
Secondly, we’re applauding a new set of significantly reduced annual catch limits for two stocks of Atlantic cod in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank.
While all stocks of Atlantic cod have been overfished to alarming levels, the cod populations in these two areas have dropped to dire levels – an assessment earlier this year showed that after 15 years of trying to rebuild these two cod populations, virtually zero progress had been made.
The Gulf of Maine cod population is currently at less than 19 percent of its target level, while the Georges Bank cod population is at 7 percent. The new limits will reduce catches in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank by 77 percent and 55 percent, respectively, in a last-ditch effort to save these populations.
The fishing of groundfish like Atlantic cod is historic, older even than America itself. Atlantic cod has been harvested by U.S. fishermen since the 17th century, and the ocean was believed to be so teeming with cod that one could almost walk across the ocean on their backs.
As is often the case, however, fishing turned into overfishing, with U.S. stocks of Atlantic cod coming dangerously near to commercial collapse in the mid-1990s. Concerted efforts to replenish cod stocks began, but to little avail – a 2011 assessment of Gulf of Maine cod showed that the fish was still being seriously overfished, and was not recovering at an adequate rate.
Unfortunately, this disappointing story is not unique to Atlantic cod; today, 14 of 20 groundfish populations in New England are overfished or experiencing overfishing, making these victories that much more critical for the future of these populations.
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